Reflections on Babalu Blog at 20

Val, Ziva and I posing in front of outdoor advertising that was part of a public relations campaign to raise awareness of Spain’s re-colonization of Cuba, May of 2007

I’ve been thinking about what to say on this auspicious occasion, and I’ve been drawing blanks, so I’m going to simply start writing and hope it makes sense in the end.

By the time I started reading Babalú Blog it was already a couple of years old. A co-worker turned me on to it, and I was hooked. I had just published a website, trenblindado.com, about Ché Guevara and the much propagandized “Battle of Santa Clara” during Cuba’s castroite insurrection. I felt I needed to meet the creator of Babalú Blog, Valentin Prieto, in order to promote my new website so I set out to meet him at Cuba Nostalgia. This must have been May of 2005. Val was gracious and helpful to me and by March of 2006 I was contributing to Babalu. At some point Val began to burn out, I could sense it. I still had a lot of energy for what we were doing and began to fill the vacuum slowly being left by Val. The audience continued growing, and so did Babalú’s roster of writers. Eventually, I burned out too. Fortunately, for the blog’s sake, and for Cuba’s sake, Alberto de la Cruz then stepped in and took the reins that he has in hand to this very day. How he does it, I don’t know.

The world has changed a lot since those early days of this blog. Social media has taken over and made the landscape unrecognizable. Unfortunately, this has been a net negative for blogs like this. We’re all at the mercy of algorithms set by our big tech overlords. Also, Cuba has changed. When I first started blogging here, I was in my mid 30s, still young enough to be optimistic about the future. Today, not so much. Cuba is a failed state with a broken people. When the regime falls, I fear Cuba will enter a long period of turmoil. The Cuban exiles of the 60s 70s and 80s are dying off and with them so is the desire to return to and invest in Cuba. It’s a shame. The tyrant fidel castro, his sniveling little brother and all of their accomplices didn’t just destroy a country in their time, they destroyed it for decades to come.

But let’s turn our attention to happier thoughts. Babalú has given me so much. First of all the friendships of my fellow Babalusians, far too many to mention them all but let’s start with Val, Alberto de la Cruz, George Moneo, Ziva Sahl, Carlos Eire, Humberto Fontova and Silvio Canto. I love you all very much. Many of our readers have also become friends, both on social media and in real life, IRL, as the kids say. A special shout out to fellow Gator, Gabino Cuevas and also to Scott Gillies.

Babalú was also a refuge for me. When I was trapped in a job I didn’t want to be working, I’d steal company time to blog about Cuba, Cuban-American issues and even US politics. At Babalú, I polished my writing skills, which has served me well in my career ever since.

But as important as Babalú Blog is to me personally, it’s more important to Cuba. Babalú Blog serves as a chronicle of the truth about Cuba, in English, that will exist in perpetuity. Given how biased the media is in favor of the castro regime, the archives of blogs like this one may be the only chance there is for future historians to get it right. Because of that, I am grateful that Babalú Blog exists and am proud to have played a small part in it.

I recently asked Chat GPT what Babalú Blog was and this was the surprising accurate response:

Babalu Blog is a widely known and influential online platform that focuses on Cuban and Cuban-American issues. It originated as a blog founded by Val Prieto in 2003 and has since gained a significant following. The blog covers various topics related to Cuba, including politics, human rights, culture, and current events.

Babalu Blog aims to provide an alternative perspective on Cuba, often critical of the Cuban government and its policies. It has become a prominent platform for Cuban exiles and their descendants to express their opinions, share personal stories, and advocate for change. The blog has also served as a space for discussing the experiences of Cubans living on the island and highlighting the challenges they face.

Over the years, Babalu Blog has expanded its reach beyond its initial blog format and has become active on social media platforms as well. It has cultivated a diverse community of contributors and readers who engage in discussions, share news articles, and provide insights into the Cuban context. The platform continues to be a valuable resource for those interested in Cuban affairs and the experiences of the Cuban diaspora.

Here’s the way I described Babalu in the blog’s “about” page, I think it’s fitting to end this rambling piece with it:

At Babalú, our slogan is “an island on the net without a bearded dictator.” We take an old-school, hard line stance against the dictatorship in Cuba and generally are aligned with conservative politics. We have a loyal core readership, we’ve met with Presidents and Senators and the New York Times, one of the worst culprits in the whitewashing of the Cuban dictatorship, called Babalú “a rabid anti-Castro forum.” That’s a description we wear with pride.

Thank you, dear readers. Thank you Val. Thank you Alberto. Thank you all.

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